Couch to 5k is a fantastic programme that helps you run a 5k in less than 10 weeks. For many runners, it’s their first taste of running, but once programme ends, many runners are left wondering what to do after Couch to 5k, or simply, what do you do after 5k?
If you’re in the middle of running Couch to 5k, or coming towards the end of the programme, you may be wondering what’s next.
Completing the Couch to 5k programme is a huge achievement in itself, and whether you did it alone or with a group of runners, there are plenty of opportunities to keep going on your running journey.
In this guide we’ll look at some of these opportunities in the hope that it will keep you running long after you’ve finished Couch to 5k.
Just because it’s over doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your running shoes. There is life after Couch to 5k!
In this guide we’ll explore:
- Why is the Couch to 5k programme so popular?
- What are the benefits of Couch to 5k?
- What to do after Couch to 5k if you’re not running a 5k
- What to do after Couch to 5k: 7 actionable ways to keep running
Why is Couch to 5k so popular?
What makes the Couch to 5k training plan so popular with a lot of beginner runners is that it gradually eases you into running.
As the plan progresses, it gets you used to running longer distances until you can comfortably run a 5k.
Many runners enjoy Couch to 5k because there’s absolutely no pressure to go fast or at a certain pace in order to complete it.
You decide the pace and you decide if you want to repeat a week or two.
Couch to 5k is also popular because it has so many physical and mental benefits (more on those below) and it’s free to do.
What are the benefits of Couch to 5k?
According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the Couch to 5k plan is a valuable inexpensive tool to help increase physical activity, aid with weight loss and improve quality of life.
A lot of runners who start their running journey with Couch to 5k go on to run 5k races, 10k races, half marathons and even marathons.
This just goes to show how popular and successful the Couch to 5k plan is!
Here are the benefits of Couch to 5k:
- Reduces the chance of health risks like type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease
- Boosts your mood
- Improves confidence and self-esteem
- Helps with weight loss
- Low barrier to entry
- It’s free!
What to do after Couch to 5k if you’re not running a 5k
Finished Couch to 5k but not running 5k? Don’t worry!
After Couch to 5k, the tendency for a lot of runners is to think that they should be at the stage of being able to run a 5k, but this isn’t always the case or indeed the norm.
Many runners choose to repeat their final weeks of the programme if they feel they need more time to build up their endurance and stamina.
After all, life gets in the way and sometimes you just need a bit more time.
What to do after Couch to 5k: 7 actionable ways to keep running
If you’re wondering: What should I do after Couch to 5k? Here are 7 ways to keep running.
Sign up for a 5k race
This is perhaps the most obvious choice for a lot of runners who finish Couch to 5k. Signing up for a 5k race is a great way to really put your training to the test.
Parkrun is a firm favourite for a lot of beginner runners as it presents a fun and informal way to run a 5k.
There’s no pressure to go fast and many Parkruns welcome runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities.
They also take place every week so you have plenty of time to train and get yourself psyched for the run.
If you fancy something a little more, shall we say, race worthy – then check out the local 5k races or fun runs in your area.
Related: What to expect at your first Parkrun
Think about your long term running goals
If you’re keen to make running a habit, and you’re serious about taking it up more regularly, then now is a great time to think about your long term running goals.
What to do after Couch to 5k is all about affirming your running goals. After all, you don’t want to lose momentum or your running mojo.
Many runners who’ve completed Couch to 5k have gone onto run half marathons, marathons and even ultra-marathons. There really are no limits when it comes to running.
- What do you want to achieve over the coming weeks, months and years?
- Do you want to be able to run a half marathon or marathon in the future?
- Do you have your sights set on a particular race or event?
Write them down and put in plan in place to achieve them.
Join a running group
The Couch to 5k programme is so great because it gives you a guide to work towards and follow each week.
If you run alone, this is invaluable, especially if you’re new to running. But once the programme is over, it can be quite overwhelming to know what to do next.
Join a local running group and receive guidance and support from a qualified running leader or running coach who will be able to suggest workouts and training plans for you to do next.
You’ll also receive advice on all things running, and you’ll also likely meet like-minded people in the process!
Run a faster 5k
If you’ve finished the Couch to 5k programme and your end goal is to run a faster 5k, then why not look into ways to improve your time.
There are lots of ways to run faster and improve your pace. One of these is speedwork.
Speedwork is basically a way to improve your speed as a runner and help you become stronger and faster.
If you’re new to speedwork, then slowly introduce short, sharp bursts of running into your runs. Also known as ‘strides’, these short, sharp bursts get you used to running at a faster pace.
Judging your pace instinctively takes a lot of practice, but by running that bit faster on your runs, you will gradually get used to what it feels like to run at a more challenging pace.
Run a ‘long’ run
You may have heard the term ‘long Sunday run’ in the running community. They are sacred for a lot of runners who are either in full training mode, or just want to get out for a run on a Sunday morning.
In order to run for longer without getting so tired, you need to start including longer runs in your training plan.
By longer, I don’t mean you have to go out and run 10 plus miles. Not at all. After Couch to 5k, a long run could mean anything between 3 to 7 miles.
Choose your distance and route and work towards completing that. The key is not to overwhelm yourself too soon and gradually progress your runs each week.
Run a 10k
When thinking what to do after Couch to 5k, a 10k is the next milestone distance for a lot of Couch to 5k runners.
Many runners go from Couch to 5k to 10k. Once they’ve conquered the 5k, they work towards the 6 mile mark. At 6.1 miles, a 10k is effectively double the distance
There are even Couch to 10k plans out there, making it easy for you to pick up from where you left off with your Couch to 5k programme.
If you’re wondering if there is an after Couch to 5k app, there are a lot of great running apps on the market to help you progress to running a 10k.
Some of the best running apps after Couch to 5k are listed in my guide: 5 of the best 5k to 10k running apps
You never know, soon you may be wondering what to do after Couch to 10k.
Run more regularly
Depending on how often you ran during the Couch to 5k programme, one option to improve your running is to run more often.
This simply gets your body used to running more regularly, thereby improving your endurance, stamina, breathing and pace.
As a beginner runner, you could be running anything from twice to five times a week. The key is though not to overdo it and knowing your limits.
Many beginner runners get infected by the running bug, which is fantastic, but can sometimes lead to exhaustion and overuse injuries like shin splints and IT band syndrome because they don’t know when to stop.
No matter how excited you get by your new running journey, be sure to make time for rest and recovery. Your body will thank you for it!